Endless Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know—Madalena Cruz-Ferreira SpecGram Vol CLXXI, No 4 Contents The SpecGram Inquisition—Trey Jones—with Inquisitor Generalis Jonathan Downie

It Was a Dark and Stormy Noun...
1987 Edition

The SpecGram Puzzle Elves™

Some of our more, ahem, mature readers may remember that back in the mid-80’s Speculative Grammarian ran an annual Bulwer-Lytton-style contest, asking readers to submit the worst possible opening sentence for a linguistically-themed book. In fact, some of those same readers may have submitted entries, and may still be wondering whether or not they won.

Sorry about that. The contest entries were in fact judged by the editorial board, but a dispute between Pulju (a Givónian functionalist) and Slater (a Lasnikian generativist) turned uncivil and the winners were never announced. In the meantime, we have lost our records as to who submitted them. So no prizes this time! But we do remember which category each was submitted for.

Less than three full decades late, we are proud to present the third installment, the winners from 1987!

1st PlaceBulwer-Lyttonian Linguistics

It seems to me to be the case that the night, was stormy and dark.

1st PlaceTenure Track Category

We set forth, readernay, we embark!for both birch and beech will frame our tale with naught to bell itinto the very morning of the world, the world of the text, the text of the world of my dissertation, which will wreak analysis upon the transcribed discourse of the Community Arbor Fund budget meeting of Nov. 12th and bind it, helpless and qualitative, to the loom of my desires.

1st PlaceFairy Tales

The subtle green glow of the mushrooms hinted at the presence of prefixies, the barely audible hum of isogloss lines suggested the likelihood of suffixiesand any linguofairyologist worth her salt would know that infixies are always aroundbut the faint, crisp, metathesistic aroma of elberderries gave Lady Hattie Mattie Nettie Bettie Bertie Gertie Le Feuvre (known to her close friends and associates as “Mad Hattie”) an inkling that she would soon come across a precious circumfixie, the rarest of the rare affixies to be found in a proper British garden of languages, of which hers was surely and assuredly the most proper, the most British, and the most linguistic.

1st PlaceWesterns

Tex snapped his spurs sharply into the side of his sorrel steed, squinted through the setting sun’s slanting shafts, steadied his six-shooter, and shot a salvo of silver shells into the side of the scoundrel, Sibilant Sam.

1st PlaceScience Fiction

Admiral Waiz gazed thoughtfully at the blue-green moon of Rugai IV, which loomed placidly off the port bow of the Galaxy Streamer; his mind flitted briefly between his ship’s damaged anti-ergative drive and his crew’s raging epidemic of procliticitis, before settling with determination on the larger problem at hand: how to locate and diffuse the ambifixation detonator which an unknown malefactor had concealed somewhere on either side of the moon that lay defenseless before him.

1st PlaceFieldwork

As the notebook was torn from my hands and punishing blows rained down on my head, all I could think was, “Okay, it must be an ergative language.”

2nd PlaceFieldwork

As the local population brandished weapons and charged straight at his team of fieldworkers, Dr. Harfleswatte realized, belatedly, that perhaps extreme breathy voice and velar relaxation in Tkovzari was actually phonemic, and that the Tkovzari leader’s opening [huuzawıdḷ kjutiiii? uuwar! yežjuu!] might not have been as unthreatening as he originally imagined.

1st PlacePythonatious Linguistics

No-one expects the Spanish infixation.

1st PlaceBelaboring the Point

It was the adverb of time; it was the deixis of time; it was the age of well-formedness; it was the age of formalism; it was the epoch of syntax; it was the epoch of semantics; it was the season of the Syllable of Light; it was the season of the Lateral of Darkness; it was the spring of apocope; it was the winter of the minimal pair; we had everything before us; we had nothing before us; we were all going direct to Tenure; we were all going direct the other way; in short, the semicolon was so far like the present semicolon, that some of its noisiest prescriptivists insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

1st PlaceMythology

Ðor, broad-shouldered and red-bearded, strode mightily through Vowelhalla in search of his step-motherthe comely and proper goddess of minced oaths, Fryggyn’to warn her that Lowki was up to his old tricks again and had threatened to poison the Well of Phonemes, and hence Ŷĝĝḓřấŝíìλ, with a flood of falling tonesbut Ðor could not, as he was brought up short as the main hall filled instantly with the spirits of innumerable schwas, recently reduced and brought to Vowelhalla by the Vowelkyries; thinking of Fryggyn’, he stifled most of his displeasure and swore but gently, ᚠᚢᛞᚷᛖ!”

1st PlaceLinguistic Theory Bashing

It was 8.02am and 50.53555 seconds and Dr John Littledata was alarmed that the manual of his electronic alarm had a low type/token ratiothe mark of a lack of interaction with cognitive linguists.

1st PlaceSyntax

The minimalist awoke.

2nd PlaceSyntax

Minimalists wake.

3rd PlaceSyntax

Minnie woke.

4th PlaceSyntax

Min’s up!

1st PlaceCyberpunk

The sky above the port was the color of colorless green ideas, mapped to a dead theory.

2nd PlaceCyberpunk

No one would have believed, in the opening years of the twenty-first century, that the world of discourse was being analyzed keenly and closely by algorithms faster than any thought of man and yet as fallible; that as men busied themselves about their various communications they were being scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

1st PlaceEditorial Fawning

Satirical linguistics wasn’t quite the last great frontier that Trey once thought it was; in fact, it was more like the first pair of unstarched lederhosen out of the broken washing machine.

1st PlaceDystopian Linguistics

Today, we code anthropological linguistic data; tomorrow, we take over the world.

1st PlaceTranslation

Jim Jimminy wasn’t just a translation scholar; he was a mime too.

1st PlacePretension

During the past twenty-five years of development in the field of linguistics it has become customary, especially among anthropologists, to regard linguistics as a very advanced, systematic, precise, powerfulin short, ‘scientific’ discipline.

Last PlaceAll Categories

It was a long and stormy dissertation defense; Assistant Professor Higenby, chair of the committee, opportunistically filled pauses with softball questions to her student, while Professors Alsop and Hughes huddled together at the lower end of the conference table, concocting arcane and patently irrelevant questions about evidence for “traces” left by “raising to subject” in Bantu languages, clearly designed to undermine the candidate’s academic credibility (another salvo in their strategy to deny Higenby tenure), and Assistant Professor Bingham, whose first three comments lent the strong impression that he had not even read the dissertation, asserted shrilly that the candidate’s work, added to that of Higenby herself, had proven “nothing at all;” and just as Professor Smyth, an external committee member from Religious Studies who had been hastily added at the last minute, tried to make peace by rising to ask why it didn’t count for at least something that the candidate for a Doctorate in Linguistics could already speak five languages fluently, a precocious undergraduate passed me a note which read: “quarrels in academia are all the more bitter for their triviality.”

Endless Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t KnowMadalena Cruz-Ferreira
The SpecGram InquisitionTrey Joneswith Inquisitor Generalis Jonathan Downie
SpecGram Vol CLXXI, No 4 Contents